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People have written in to Dublin City Council roughly 600 times about traffic signals across the city since the council launched its online feedback app on 4 May, according to a council spokesperson.
For the council, it’s been useful, the spokesperson said, citing public input after the council changed the phasing of a junction in Chapelizod on 11 May.
Around 40 submissions came in through the app in the week following the junction change, they said. Some were positive, others negative.
The feedback, and regular monitoring, meant they could react quickly, they said, and tweak the operation. Nobody has written in since about that junction, they said.
People logging issues on the app say they think it’s been productive in places – but they wish they could be sure.
It’s a bit frustrating to not hear direct feedback from the council about what happened with requests, says Oisín Ó hAlmhain, who has used the app three times. Were his requests ignored, put on a list, or already addressed?
Jack O’Sullivan, who used the app to report the long wait times at a crossing in Stoneybatter, says it’s important to hear back.
“It could be helpful but needs to have some definite feedback so you feel it’s actually doing something,” he says. “Otherwise I just won’t bother reporting another one.”
The council hasn’t yet responded to a query sent Friday asking whether it plans to tell submitters whether and how they’ve reacted to feedback.
The app lets people rate pedestrian crossings with one of three emojis and then leave a 200-character comment for more detail on what moved them to give that rating.
Submissions go to the council’s intelligent transportation systems team (ITS), the council spokesperson said, which manages traffic lights in the city.
The council already knew through other systems about some of the issues people flagged through the app, they said. Its Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS) catches faulty lights, and its traffic control centre has another feedback form.
The ITS team receives feedback from all these channels, and can make changes to traffic signals from their control room in Wood Quay.
The council hasn’t yet responded to a query sent Friday asking how many app queries have been investigated and led to a traffic signal being altered.
They did detail some of the kinds of requests people have sent in, though.
Some are for new pedestrian crossings, they said, which they note and check if they’ll be provided by projects such as BusConnects, the redesign of the city’s bus network.
Others are complaints about how long they are forced to wait to cross the road. The traffic department has been more focused on this in recent years, said the spokesperson.
“While it is difficult to achieve at some junctions, due to heavy public transport travel demands, we do endeavour to optimise the system to move away from high cycle lengths to reduce waiting times for pedestrians, where possible,” they said
From the Street Side
Ó hAlmhain says he tried to send comments about three different signal crossings to the council through the Rate My Signals app.
One crossing, at Grattan Crescent in Inchicore, wasn’t shown on the app’s map, he said.
The crossing’s bleeps were broken and he was requesting a fix for a visually impaired neighbour who relied on the sounds to know when to cross, he says.
“So I wasn’t able to do anything about it. But I think eventually, they did fix the sound.”
O’Sullivan says that when he reported the pedestrian crossing outside the Green Grocer in Stoneybatter, he had the same problem. It didn’t show up on the app.
He picked the nearest one, he says. “But in the comment box I specified that my submission was for the crossing above.”
It would be better if you could drop a pin yourself, O’Sullivan said. Another improvement would be if each traffic light had a QR code that people could scan to give feedback, as with full bins around the city.
O’Sullivan was reporting the crossing in Stoneybatter for long wait times, he says.
People often give up and jaywalk, he says. “Then it eventually changes and sometimes everybody has already got across without the green person.”
Ó hAlmhain said that two or three months ago, he used the app to request a shorter wait time for the pedestrian crossing on Station Road outside the Raheny Dart station. “There seems to be like a two-minute wait for that one no matter what.”
But his request hasn’t yet been taken on board by the council as far as he can tell, he says. “Absolutely nothing happened. You still have to wait ages.”
He has had more luck with another request though, he says. That one is for the pedestrian crossing across Memorial Road, next to the Chapelizod Bypass.
He thought it should go green more often for pedestrians, he says, as before, the cycle didn’t break for pedestrians unless the green light was pressed.
Pedestrians had to wait a long time for the junction to finish its cycle for cars before getting to cross the road, says Ó hAlmhain.
But the council changed it in the last week or so, he says. “As soon as you press it, you get a green light!”
He hadn’t heard back from the council, though, about what had happened with any of his requests, he says. Something simple like an app notification or a text would be helpful, he says.
“It sounds like they’re listening,” he says, since the Memorial Road junction was fixed. “They’re doing the easy ones.” But he doesn’t know for sure, he says.
In his experience, the council hasn’t generally given much feedback through its communication channels, Ó hAlmhain says.
Ó hAlmhain says he’s glad there is an app. It helps to remove issues around emailing and phoning, like reaching the right department and the time it takes, he says.
O’Sullivan says the app is better than bothering a politician about a micro city issue like the wait time on a particular pedestrian crossing. “Not sure if that’s even a good use of councillors’ time and efforts.”